We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Jacob Rees-Mogg crosses the Rubicon

Things are lively in Westminster tonight. According to the Guardian Theresa May has secured the backing of the Cabinet for a Brexit deal. And according to Guido Fawkes, Jacob Rees-Mogg has finally made his move against Theresa May. After saying that he had initially supported Mrs May’s efforts to negotiate Brexit, the Mogster now takes a different view:

Unfortunately the proposals for a UK/EU agreement released today do not match up to those early expectations. For four key reasons.

1. The proposed agreement will see the UK hand over £39 billion to the EU for little or nothing in return. The prospect of an agreed free trade agreement is as far away today as it always has been. The 15 page political declaration is neither binding nor clear in its intentions. If it aims to put in place the Chequers proposal it is neither workable nor respectful of the referendum result.

Next comes some side-of-the-bus stuff about nurses, just to remind us that JRM is only the “Member for the Eighteenth Century” in his manners. He is thoroughly twentieth century when it comes to Our NHS. The letter continues,

2. The proposed agreement would treat Northern Ireland differently than the rest of the UK. This is unacceptable to Unionists particularly in Northern Ireland, and Scotland where the SNP will seek to demand similar internal UK borders to weaken the Union.

A funny way of putting it, but presumably he means that Scotland would seek to be more deeply in the EU.

3. This agreement will lock us into an EU customs union and EU laws. This will prevent us pursuing a UK trade policy based around our priorities and economy. Without the ability to regulate

That word again

our own economy and form our own trade agreements we will lose out on the opportunities that Brexit affords us.

That was a key point.

4. Agreeing to be subject to the rules of an EU Customs Union, in contravention of the 2017 Conservative manifesto, without any votes or influence is profoundly undemocratic. This is compounded by the lack of any ability for the UK to unilaterally escape, making the UK a permanent rule taker.

Personally, though I do object to being subject to the rules of an EU Customs Union, I do not object because of a lack of democracy. However he has a good point about being locked in.

Cutting to the chase,

For these reasons I can not support the proposed agreement in Parliament and would hope that Conservative MPs would do likewise.

Yours

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP.

Whaddya think?

Samizdata quote of the day

For instance, antifa groups have objected strongly to being lumped in with the Tommy Robinsons and Proud Boys of this world, whom they vehemently oppose. But they have no grounds to complain. The Guardian reports that these same activists welcomed PayPal’s ban on McInnes. They are all too comfortable with big corporates policing political activity, they just want other people to be policed.

Regardless of one’s political views, we should be as worried by PayPal’s decision to bar Tommy Robinson as its decision to bar antifa groups. We need to push back against PayPal’s attempts to clamp down on groups it considers to be hateful or intolerant, and we need to challenge those who want to outsource censorship to the tech giants.

Fraser Myers

Quote of the Process – Martin Howe QC

“…my own view is that signing up to this backstop with this review mechanism would be mad, simply mad….”

So writes Martin Howe QC, of Lawyers for Britain (sounding for all the World like a certain denizen of this parish) in a message to supporters, summarising his advice. He is referring to the proposed deal that the UK Cabinet is being asked by the FFC to agree to:

This is the advice I would give the Cabinet about the Irish border “backstop” arrangement.

First, the existing confusing December 2017 text about the “backstop” is not legally binding. We still have a brief, golden opportunity to walk away from this mess. The UK is free under international law to walk away. By contrast, if we sign a treaty text embodying a backstop arrangement, it would become legally binding. It is not realistic to say (as some have) that it is just a treaty and we can either change it in future or just break or leave it. We cannot do this unless its terms allow us to.

But it gets worse:

Trade treaties normally contain clauses which allow either party to withdraw on notice. I can’t think of a single existing trade treaty which does not contain such a notice clause. So what the EU is currently asking for – a clause which would allow the UK to terminate the backstop only if it is replaced by a subsequent agreement with the EU – is wholly exceptional in international treaty practice. This would lock the UK into a relationship with the EU which the UK could not escape except with the EU’s permission.

Instead of pressing for a simple clause which gives the UK the right to withdraw from the backstop on notice, the government is contemplating a clause under which the UK’s right to withdraw is dependent upon satisfying a ‘joint review mechanism’ or arbitral body.

It is virtually unheard of in international treaty relations for states to agree to be bound by decisions of tribunals which are not strictly neutral. Typically, an international arbitration panel will consist of an arbitrator appointed by each party and a neutral chairman. However, the Chequers White Paper has proposed an arbitration process modelled on Ukraine’s humiliating deal with the EU under which the arbitration panel is obliged to refer issues of EU law to the ECJ and is bound by its decision.

The legal black hole of the proposed treaty.

So my advice to the Cabinet is that agreeing to a backstop which the UK can only leave if we satisfy a review mechanism risks dropping the UK into a legal black hole for probably a number of years and quite possibly for longer .

While in that black hole, we would be subject to EU control of our tariffs and external trade policy and of wide areas of our internal laws, without having any vote on the rules which bind us, and we would be unable to negotiate trade agreements with non-EU countries.

We know have a clear legal right to terminate the application of EU laws to ourselves by giving two years notice under Article 50. We would have swapped that to a situation where our right to escape from EU laws would be not under our control, and in the worst case might lock the UK into the backstop permanently.

So it’s really a Brezhnev Doctrine for the EU, the acquis communautaire, with the UK conveniently deprived of voting rights, like a caterpillar injected with a wasp’s egg that slowly consumes the poor beast from within, when it thought it was going to pupate and become a butterfly.However, it’s not clear to me how the sovereignty of the UK Parliament could be subordinated (or suborned) to a treaty, presumably there will be some ‘supremacy clause’ seeking to establish Parliament’s subordination, it may be the Lawyers for Britain have the answer here, subordination to the ECJ.

A Dissent

Today is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, which killed something between 15 and 19 million people, an astonishing and colossal waste of human life and potential.

Sometimes it is necessary to engage in violence to prevent even worse violence, but it is always a terrible thing when that happens, and is nothing to be celebrated. At best, the “victory” of the allies was that nothing particularly worse happened, although what happened (including the deaths of about 2% of the population of Great Britain and 4.25% of the population of France) was pretty much as awful as one would imagine to begin with. As an anti-nationalist, I note that there is no good reason to believe the deaths of millions of Austrians and Germans (something like 4% of the population in those countries) was any less of a tragedy. All deaths are tragedies, and all deaths are premature.

War is not glorious. It achieves no great goals. It cures no diseases, it bridges no rivers, it builds no great cities, it does not launch people into space, clothe the naked, or feed the hungry. Those are worth celebrating, those sorts of achievements represent mankind at its best. War does quite the opposite thing — it destroys resources in bulk, kills vast numbers of people, and sets back human achievement, sometimes by years, sometimes by decades or longer.

Nor is participation in war laudable. Sometimes it is necessary to defend oneself, but there is never any glory in it. Dying face down in the mud is tragic, not glorious, and World War I was almost nothing but one tragedy after another, over and over, multiplied by the millions.

So, today is properly a day of mourning, for a world that was happily growing in population, accumulating capital, and engaging in peaceful trade, which was rent asunder by a stupid, useless waste of human life.

At one point, this trauma was deeply etched into the minds of most average people, but the memory has faded as the generations have passed, and thus the world flirts with horror again and again. Humans do learn, but far too slowly, and there are many people who work actively to tell other people things that are not true.

Sadly, intelligence and rationality are not universally revered, and thus, many are forced to learn the same things over and over, with bloody results.

Victory

 

THE ARMISTICE DAY, NOVEMBER 1918 (Q 80135) Crowd cheering outside Buckingham Palace during the Armistice Day, 11 November 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205324739

The Times 12 November 1918 p10. Right click for full page.


→ Continue reading: Victory

The elephant with more sense than to be in the room

After the armistice centenary celebrations, Macron is hosting some kind of talking shop about ‘peace’ for his fellow European leaders. Wisely, Trump has decided not to attend. (He’s already done his bit for European peace by extorting from Macron a verbal acknowledgement that Europe should do more for its own defence. We’ll see whether that amounts to anything in practice.)

The chattering classes love the saying that generals prepare to fight the last war, not the next one. Sadly, they rarely ask whether they themselves are trying to avoid the last war, not the next one. After 1918, many western leaders tried so very hard to avoid WWI that they greatly helped Hitler bring about the very different WWII. (The UK had a pacifist prime minister and pacifist leader of the opposition during Adolf’s first three years.) Now Merkel and co. are trying to avoid yesterday’s wars by enforcing ‘hate speech’ laws on every questioner of the PC consensus they can mischaracterise as a blond blue-eyed lover of the nordic race. Even if we did not know how Weimar Germany’s similar use of similar laws worked out, it would still be a great way to avoid the problems of the past by encouraging the problems of the future.

Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

Hector Drummond has some views of the rotting state of popular culture…

Dr Who actually died in 1981, although that fact wasn’t apparent until much later. He died when Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davidson. Davidson was clearly an inferior actor, at least in that role, but Doctor Who fans thought that the show would rise again. Of course it didn’t, with more and more unsuitable actors taking on the role, and the writing got more and more left-wing to the point where even the ordinary viewers could see that the show was essentially about politics rather than science-fiction.

Some Dr Who fans are still very upset that the BBC killed it off in 1989, but the show had become an idiotic waste of money, and had to be put out of its misery. It had become obvious that Dr Who was no more. He was an ex-Doctor.

When Russell T. Davies revived the show in 2005, it seemed like the good Doctor was reborn, especially when the unsuitable Christopher Eccleston was quickly replaced by David Tennant’s more traditional interpretation. But the show went gradually downhill, and then politics started to take over again. The best episode of those years was Blink, the first weeping angels episode, but it was noticeable that that hardly featured the doctor.

I started to gradually lose interest, especially after episodes where the moon turned out to be a giant egg, which made me hide behind the sofa, not in fear but in embarrassment. And when they started to overdo the historic episodes where the doctor turns out to be great buddies with famous historical figures. Plus the new episodes had relationships and romance in them, and that just wasn’t Dr Who. And they messed with things you shouldn’t mess with, like the Neil Gaiman episode where the Tardis turned out to be a madwoman. Oh, and the Doctor turned out to be married to the most annoying woman in the Universe, except perhaps for Polly Toynbee. It’s making me pissed off just recalling this stuff as I’d sort of repressed it.

→ Continue reading: Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

Epik domain registrar against censorship

Much as Paypal has shown that it can stop providing services to customers for what appear to be political reasons, the domain name registrar GoDaddy stopped providing services to Gab, resulting in their web site disappearing from the internet.

Recently they found an alternative registrar, Epik, who have written a blog post about why they decided to accept Gab as a customer.

De-platforming a haven of free speech is not about left or right. Anyone who remembers studying civics is familiar with the concept of inalienable rights — rights that a worthy government can only protect but would have no moral authority to take away. The idea of Natural Law and Inalienable Rights dates back to Ancient Greece, if not before. Tolerance for competing views — including those protected by Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press — is not an American concept even though the Founding Fathers of the United States built a prosperous nation around the concept.

Refusing service to a customer does not violate the non-aggression principle, but when you need a service provider to help you speak to people it is very useful to find one who thinks that freedom of speech is a good thing. Epik should be commended for their stance, and more importantly, their stance is a reason to use their services.

To make sure there are service providers who take your business, it is helpful if there are plenty to choose from and that at least some of them have friendly policies. For this it helps if there are low barriers to entry and minimal state interference in the policies of service providers. Points of centralisation can be a problem. About this, Epik say:

In the domain name world, we often talk about domain ownership. The reality is that we are mostly leasing domains from registries, who in turn is often regulated by a regulator ICANN. Recently I have been a vocal advocate for Forever domain registrations whereby a domain is free of ongoing expense. At the moment, this is possible through Epik though there is still more work to do to make this a risk-free industry norm. The danger of not proactively embracing digital sovereignty, in all its forms, is that the digital world will inevitably find a way to achieve it, with or without domain names.

Various government bodies are in charge of various parts of domain registration, depending on where you are in the world. Technology to decentralise this would be helpful. Perhaps something like Namecoin could be the answer, or perhaps there is another way yet.

Samizdata quote of the day

“There’s a cost for everything. And the ultimate payer of every cost imposed by government is not only the individual member of the mass of taxpayers who does not benefit from the scheme, but likely, also, its intended beneficiaries (cf., welfare, busing, affirmative action, urban planning).

The Secret Knowledge, David Mamet, Page 60. (Published by Sentinel, 2011.)

He whose payments system pays the piper calls the tune

Paypal stops handling payments for Tommy Robinson, reports the BBC.

As usual, I will defend the right of Paypal to exclude whomsoever it wishes. But I find something ominous about the fact that the company refuses to say exactly what Mr Robinson has done to violate its terms of use, and also about the fact that it seems likely that it has taken this step because a lot of people signed a petition telling it to:

Paypal has told former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson it will no longer process payments on his behalf, the BBC understands.

The payments network is believed to have told Mr Robinson he had violated its terms and conditions.

It said Paypal could not be used to promote hate, violence or discrimination.

Online petitions calling on finance firms to sever links with him have gained thousands of signatures.

In a statement, Paypal said it could not comment on individual customers but added that it regularly reviewed accounts to ensure their use aligned with its acceptable use policy.

“PayPal connects buyers and sellers.” When it so chooses.

Which is as it should be. But if it makes enough choices like this one I can see the day coming when I might choose another payments provider.

A bonfire of the freedoms

It is traditional at this time of year to burn Guy Fawkes in effigy. My Catholic family never had a problem with doing that. Fawkes was a terrorist before the name was invented. But for variety’s sake, effigies of many public figures other than Fawkes have been put on the bonfire over the years. The town of Lewes is particularly known for its vigorous celebrations:

In 2001 effigies of Osama bin Laden were burned by the Cliffe, Commercial Square and Lewes Borough bonfire societies, causing the Lewes Bonfire to receive more press attention than usual, being featured on the front page of some national newspapers, as did the Firle Bonfire Society’s 2003 choice of a gypsy caravan. In 2014 police investigated complaints about plans to burn two effigies of Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, and one model was subsequently withdrawn from the event. In 2015 effigies of David Cameron with a pig, Jeremy Clarkson and Sepp Blatter were burned.

I don’t have much of a problem with that, either. All those mentioned chose to be public figures, apart from the pig.

However I do have a problem with the nasty jerks (nothing to do with Lewes) who made a cardboard model of Grenfell Tower, the building that burned down in June 2017, killing 72 people, and put that on their bonfire. To laugh and joke about innocent people dying in agony is despicable. The proper response is scorn.

The actual response in the UK of 2018 was to send Plod round to scoop up a load of “gaffer tape and white tags” in a clear plastic bag and carry it away for detailed forensic analysis. Given that the six “suspects” voluntarily handed themselves in, why it is deemed necessary to search for their fingerprints on discarded pieces of cardboard is not clear, unless it is intended to feature in the first episode of the long-promised CSI South Norwood.

“Grenfell fire: When does causing offence become a crime?” asks the BBC.

I don’t know, when does it? It wasn’t a crime when I was growing up. How odd to think in Lewes and elsewhere a tradition of burning public figures in effigy grew up and persisted in the centuries since 1605, despite rulers who were quite happy to chop off an ear or two as a punishment for seditious libel. Now we have the Human Rights Act and everything, but jerks get arrested for burning a cardboard model.

My guess is that the police know perfectly well that even in these days of declining freedom, this example of causing offence still does not qualify as a crime. The performance of evidence bags solemnly being carried away in front of the TV cameras as if they had discovered the lair of a serial killer was not as pointless as it might seem at first. The process was the punishment.

Two discussion points inspired by Stephen Wolfram

The first one is straightforward. The internet threw me a talk by the computer scientist and businessman Stephen Wolfram today. It lasts three minutes 21 seconds and is called “How humans can communicate with aliens”.The subject is one that has so often been used as the basis for fiction that we sometimes forget that when you look up at night, what you see is real. There is a whole universe out there. It might have intelligences in it. Mr Wolfram contends that we might have been seeing evidence of intelligences all the time without realising it.

Do you think he is right? And assuming we can talk to them, should we?

Alien contact sounds wonderful at first but then becomes terrifying as you think more deeply. The second topic for discussion I want to put forward sounds terrifying at first but then becomes –

Well, you tell me what it becomes. There is a very strange final paragraph to Mr Wolfram’s Wikipedia page:

Personal analytics

The significance data has on the products Wolfram creates transfers into his own life. He has an extensive log of personal analytics, including emails received and sent, keystrokes made, meetings and events attended, phone calls, even physical movement dating back to the 1980s. He has stated “[personal analytics] can give us a whole new dimension to experiencing our lives”.

One of my recurring nightmares is that as spy devices get smaller and the computational power available to analyse what they learn gets bigger someone – or lots of someones – will be able to analyse my life in that sort of detail, down to every keystroke I make. It had never occurred to me to think of it as something I might like to do to myself.

Does anyone reading this do anything similar? Would you like to?